A UOW student’s postcards from the IESEG School of Management in Lille, France
In search of an authentic French experience, Jake took his suitcase and an open mind to Lille, which ended up having far more to offer than he had first realised. He took advantage of the cheap transport to explore Europe and have the “trip of a lifetime”. The most memorable part of his exchange, however was the people he met and the things he learnt about himself.
Has to be seen to be believed
I read so many people’s stories and thought people were a bit too enthusiastic in their reviews, but once I experienced exchange for myself it all made sense. Study abroad was amazing, life changing, incredible, “magnifique”… no words, pictures or stories will ever adequately describe the exchange experience I had.
I have always been drawn to French culture and wanted to study anywhere in the country except for Paris in order to get a more authentic experience (in my opinion) and save money by not being in a capital city. What made Lille so great was there were countless benefits that arose. Firstly, its proximity to Brussels (and the shuttle bus that runs from Lille to Charleroi Airport) means that you can take advantage of cheap Ryan Air flights all over Europe (and other nearby continents). It’s also not too far from the UK and Scandinavia if you plan to travel further north. France’s TGV rail network and international bus system also appealed to my desire to explore as much as possible at a low cost.
Lille to me is the quintessential student town. There are about 10 different schools and universities, a great nightlife, beautiful architecture, museums, an ice skating rink, bowling, laser tag, football fields and a few hidden tourist gems – really there is something for everyone. The quality of teachers in my opinion is fantastic, I did find however that my classes were predominantly with other exchange students, so in order to make French friends you should make more of an effort.
Overall my experience was unforgettable and I think I learnt so much more about my capabilities and myself than I ever thought I would. In addition to the book smarts I picked up in the classroom, this experience mainly taught me the joys of independence, the patience required to survive a 16-hour bus ride, the beautiful comparisons and contrasts I shared with new friends from different places all over the world, how to budget money in order to travel more and that language barriers don’t necessarily mean communication is not possible.
The people I met impacted me in the most beautifully powerful way, and I guess made me realise that you can sustain a euphoric level of happiness for a long period of time. Partying in Lille, seeing lots of football matches, travelling to 25 countries and being able to have a few (very brief) conversations in French by the end of my exchange were all memorable experiences that I’ll cherish forever.
Before leaving on this trip of a lifetime I was working two jobs in addition to studying, I sacrificed a lot of my social life but if I could go back I’d do it exactly the same. If you have the opportunity, time management skills and motivation I’d advise saving some money and being self-sufficient.
Having an open mind is the key to fully enjoying and living this experience. For me this mindset was particularly helpful in my solo travels post-exchange. I had no plan and would meet people and travel with them for a period of time and bounce from country to country, hostel to hostel just by seizing the opportunities that arose. There are also university-run excursions throughout the semester, I’d strongly advise on going on those excursions in order to strengthen the friendship you make with other exchange students.